How to Paint Cabinets

by Janet West

Related Articles

Reviving Kitchen Cabinets

Rejuvinate Your Countertops

Many days I stared at my scratched, varnished cabinets. My cabinets were wood and structurally sound, but worn. I longed for white, clean looking cabinets, but I didn't have the money to invest in new cabinets, and didn't know how long we would be living in that house. Who wants to spend a bundle of money on something which you can't get a good return. So, I studied the options.

  1. New cabinets
  2. New doors (probably wouldn't match)
  3. Remove the doors
  4. Living with it
  5. Re-varnishing
  6. Painting

These were the only ones I could come up with at the time. I decided to paint. Here is how I did it. This took me two weeks, while working part-time every day at my children's school. It isn't difficult, just messy.

I will assume in the following that you have paintable cabinets. Remember to ventilate by opening doors and windows. This is not for people with breathing problems, or pregnant women.

  • Take a picture of the "before" cabinets.

  • Go to your home product store. Talk to a live person with some experience. Tell them about your cabinets and what you wish to do.

  • Pick up a product called TSP . It is a chemical to strip the shine off varnished wood. Grab some rubber gloves while you are at it. Other supplies you will need are: primer, paint, brushes, roller, roller paint pan, extra roller pads, sand paper (course and fine), screwdriver for removing handles, and a paint drop cloth.

  • Related: Painting Tips, Tricks and Resources

  • For paint, I picked an off-white made for trim and baseboards. This paint had acrylic in it and was water based so it washed up easily. I am not endorsing brands, but don't skimp on this step. I used Dutch Boy Trim Paint.

  • When home I put on the gloves, mixed the TSP as the container instructed, and washed the surface of all the cabinets. This isn't the hardest part!

  • Remove all cabinet doors, handles, and hinges. Place these where you won't lose them, even if you are replacing you need them to locate some that will fit.

  • Place doors where you have plenty of space, preferably outside on sawhorses or something similar.

  • Sand all surfaces lightly. You should coarsely sand any imperfections, then finely sand.

  • Decide if you want to paint the insides of your cabinets. I did some of mine and it does look better.

  • Prime all surfaces to be painted. This is the messy part. Primer drips, so cover your good floors and counters. I used a roller for most areas. Grooves and small spaces required the brush. Either clean the brush and roller, or you can replace the pads and brush.

  • At this point, the cabinets look horrible and you're thinking, "What did I get myself into?"

  • Put on the first coat of paint. You should start to see an improvement now.

  • Put on the second coat of paint. Look for areas that need a touchup. They are there. Look for them.

  • Allow to cure (harden), before replacing dishes. Paint needs time to set so it will harden. The can should have these instructions, if not wait a day.

  • for tools and supplies for your home improvement project Shop at

  • Take a picture and let everyone back into the kitchen.

  • Keep an amount of paint for touchups. Accidents and dents happen, even on new cabinets.

I am a mom and a part-time writer. I enjoy sharing and teaching my hobbies which include gardening, decorating, and the keeping of our zoo. Email Janet at

Take the Next Step

Stay Connected with TDS

Live Better...for Less!

Join over 250,000 other subscribers who are "living better for less."

The Dollar Stretcher
Dollar Stretcher Parents
Dollar Stretcher Tips
After 50 Finances
Surviving Tough Times
Financial Independence
The Computer Lady

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt